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Image: Chris Danger

Each September in Houston, as football season rolls around, we’re always reminded of being a Star Wars fan back in 1999, when The Phantom Menace hit theaters. Without fail, we always experience the exact same sequence of emotions we did that day at the movies: an overwhelming sense of optimism and anticipation, followed by crushing disappointment.

For 41 seasons of NFL football in Houston, first with the Oilers and then the Texans, fans have rallied behind their teams. And, without exception, each of those 41 years has ended in frustration. This level of futility is rare in pro sports.

And yet local sports-talk radio is cluttered with talk of football even in the offseason. This is, after all, the home of Friday Night Lights: not just the show, but the phenomenon itself. Stadiums may as well be churches, because in Texas, football is religion.

Which may explain why we stand behind the Texans each year, despite the fact that in 15 seasons, they’ve had nary a whiff of good fortune. The high-water mark of the franchise came in 2012, when they went 12-4 before losing their quarterback to an injury and their hopes of a title to the Patriots in the second round of the playoffs. That hope-inducing record was followed by a disastrous 2-14 season.

In big games, the Texans tend to crumble. Their record in primetime is abysmal. At the most critical moments, just like Arian Foster’s groin, they have a knack for falling apart.

No one disputes that it’s tough to win in the NFL. Thirteen of 32 teams in the league have never clenched a title, after all, including our own former Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). But the Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars are the only teams that have never reached the Super Bowl in the first place. It’s no wonder they’re division rivals.

So, can the Houston Texans get to the Super Bowl? Of course. Will they? Probably. Will they ever win it? In truth, the odds aren’t that great. There is simply no perfect formula for success. Until they do—if they ever do—fans will just have to keep hoping.

Excerpted from our January 2017 cover story, The Local’s Guide to Super Bowl Houston.
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